Where is veteran healthcare headed?

In a 2021 survey, 44.6% of VA healthcare enrollees said they planned to use the VA as their primary source of healthcare for the foreseeable future. In the same study, 14% reported that they planned to use it for service-related disability treatment, and 14.1% said they’d use it as a safety net.

Below, we’ll talk about some of the unique challenges facing veteran healthcare, and we’ll discuss a big change the VA is making to meet these challenges.

What are the unique needs of veteran healthcare?

Veteran healthcare has unique needs because veterans have unique needs.

Veterans experience substance use disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and mental health disorders at far greater rates than the civilian American public — 41% are diagnosed with mental health disorders. Healthcare practitioners must be prepared to treat common mental illnesses suffered by veterans such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Substance Use Disorders (SUD) with a sensitivity to the potentially traumatic experiences they’ve lived through.

Suicide is of particular concern, as veteran suicide rates are on the rise. In 2019, 6,261 veterans died by suicide (17.2 veterans per day), a 4.5% increase from 2001. Therefore it is critical that all healthcare providers are able to recognize suicide risk factors, intervene appropriately at the time, and refer their patients to the appropriate services.

Chronic pain, amputations, and hazardous exposure are also prevalent among veterans. Providers must be prepared to help their patients address these issues, particularly as they reintegrate into civilian life.

Whichever condition a veteran struggles with, healthcare providers need accurate medical and deployment records to properly diagnose and treat the veterans they serve. Accurate records also provide an avenue for timely communication between healthcare providers, which streamlines service delivery.

How is the VA modernizing to meet these challenges?

The VA’s new electronic health record (EHR) system — which will be used to manage patient records — will help facilitate smoother communication between veterans, their VA, and any other healthcare providers they see.

As stated by the VA in an announcement published on its website, “The new EHR gives VA providers secure access to patients’ complete medical history from the time they entered military service through their transition to Veteran status and beyond.”

This new system will allow for more seamless healthcare, helping non-VA providers to understand their veteran patients’ deployment history and unique needs. For example, if a patient served in Iraq or Afghanistan and has shown symptoms of burn pit exposure in the past, the provider will have access to that information.

The system also eliminates the need for providers or patients to deal with printed records, eliminating one more obstacle to veteran healthcare. The new EHR is slated for full integration into the VA’s system by 2028.

Valor is committed to veteran healthcare

Valor Healthcare partners with public and private medical clinics to bring high-quality healthcare to American veterans. Partner with us to give your patients access to data-driven, 21st-century care.